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The Co-op Playlist

Everyone knows that the stars of OurStage are the artists. We would be nothing without them! However, there are plenty of unsung heroes working behind the scenes to make sure the wheels keep turning and everything is running smoothly. We are the OurStage Community Team; Co-Op students who work tirelessly answering emails, writing blogs and reviewing the songs entered into competitions. We’ve been working here for the past six months, but now it’s time to move on to new frontiers. Still, the experience we’ve had here has been amazing, and our parting gift to you is a playlist of some great OurStage music that has either flown under the radar, or is just so great that it merits a second listen. So kick back, put on your headphones and check out some of the best we think OurStage has to offer. You can listen to the full playlist right here!

The Well Reds

Cara: I spent the past six months writing Live Wired, and when I wasn’t spending the majority of my free time at venues around Boston, I discovered tons of great music while working at OurStage! My picks for the playlist include finalists The Well Reds from The OurStage Panel, who I was lucky enough to see perform, and tunes from Marie Hines, Talain Rayne and Cooper Brown—these are sure to make you smile. Enjoy!

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Soundcheck: Meet British Beauty VV Brown

You may not be familiar with this beautiful British import, but VV Brown is no newbie. Born Vanessa Brown in Northampton, England, the beautiful singer-songwriter-model-actress is already a star overseas.  Her debut album Travelling Like The Light soared to No. 1 on the French Digital Album chart and prompted a sold-out UK tour in 2009.

In 2010, she hit the road with Maroon 5, joining their North American tour before jumping on the UK leg of Pink’s Carnival Tour.  She hit the stage with Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige for BET’s Black Girls Rock.  She also made the television rounds on Ellen, The Late Show with David Letterman, Rachael Ray and Jimmy Kimmel Live! (among others) with her single, “Shark In The Water”, which eventually went gold in the US.

In November, she was featured on MTV’s documentary series, World of Jenks, chronicling her break into the US.
market. She describes her style as “alternative pop”, with her cutesy delivery disguising the deeper underlying notes on modern-day society that permeate her lyrics.

There’s something instantly cool about this soft-spoken import, who counts Q-Tip as a friend.  She has played at huge festivals like SXSW and Glastonbury, and toured two continents with major headliners, and still she’s noticeably grounded.

A true artist in every aspect, VV casually references the amazing architecture of Chicago, or notes the beauty that can be found in the lines of a vintage jacket during a conversation about touring.  “I like being creative. I love it from the core of my belly.  It’s what I would be doing either way.”  She seems to find the beauty in everything, and reflects it in her music, her personal style and her demeanor.

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Greg Banks Vs. R. Kelly

The last year saw a new resurgence of young talent in the R&B world. Artists like The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, The-Dream and even Drake pushed the boundaries of R&B and revitalized the genre with new ideas for a new generation. However, none of these artists would exist without the influence of R. Kelly. With a career spanning nearly two decades, Kelly has been cited by Billboard as the most successful R&B/hip hop artist of the last twenty-five years, with thirty-five Top 10 singles and eleven No. 1 singles. Not only does Kelly have commercial success, but he has also composed, arranged and produced almost all of his music—a feat many singers can’t achieve. While OurStage is not short on great R&B artists, Greg Banks recently made a big splash on our charts.

OurStage's Greg Banks

R. Kelly











Like R. Kelly, Greg Banks is an R&B singer who also writes his own songs. If you listen to Banks’ song “Goodbye Sex” you can hear the similarities between his style and R. Kelly’s. In fact, the song shares much in common with Kelly’s smash hit “Ignition (Remix).” Both songs are at about the same tempo, and they both use similar sounding chord progressions. Banks and Kelly use similar techniques in their singing like switching between longer held out notes and singing in double time. These two songs also deal with overtly sexual lyrical themes, a trademark of R. Kelly’s music. “Selfish” is another one of Banks’ songs that is stylistically similar to R. Kelly, specifically his song “I Wish (Remix).” Both of these songs rely on an acoustic guitar melody to provide the backbone of the song. The tracks also have similar lyrical themes, albeit in slightly different contexts—while Banks sings about his worries of the love of his life leaving him, Kelly laments the deaths of his friends and family.

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Soundcheck: Will T.I. Take Back The Top Spot?

It’s been quite a year for T.I. An early prison release followed by a quick return to the slammer followed by another early release and ANOTHER turn around trip to prison before heading home to his beloved family, friends, fans—and film crew.

The self-proclaimed King of The South has had a tumultuous and somewhat ironic journey to the top and the bottom, and may now end up somewhere in the middle. T.I. first headed to prison on gun charges; but only after he filmed a reality special aimed at keeping kids out of trouble.  The next time he wound up in the hot seat, (this time for a parole violation) he conveniently saved a suicidal fan from jumping off a building by literally talking him off the ledge.  Upon his release, Tip wasted no time jumping back into the limelight. He has already filmed another reality show for BET, T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle, which started rolling the moment he stepped off the prison grounds.

He was greeted with open arms just days after his release at the BET Hip Hop Awards, where he kicked off the night’s festivities by hitting the stage for a performance of“I’m Flexin’” alongside Jeezy, spitting lyrics that described his current sentiments. “I been out of sigh been out of mind…another year of prison promise this is it for me trying to make It through the storm should be makin’ history. No feeling sorry keep your pity and your sympathy good or bad take it like a man whatever meant to be.”

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Soundcheck: Who Is Mac Miller?

You may have heard one of his mixtapes, or perhaps you’ve stumbled upon his uber-popular YouTube channel, but chances are, if you don’t know Mac Miller already, you soon will.

Malcolm McCormick—better known as Mac Miller and before that, EZ Mac—is the nineteen-year-old leader of Pittsburgh’s fastest-growing, grass-smoking, grass-roots rap uprising since, well, Wiz Khalifa. He followed the footsteps of his hometown hero to launch an independent career that rivals that of rappers’ twice age with ten times his budget.  Miller joined Khalifa on Rukkus Records in 2010, and has since enjoyed a quick rise to the top of the charts—first with his mixtape K.I.D.S., inspired by the 1995 movie of the same name then with another mix tape released in March, Best Day Ever, which included the current buzz-worthy single “Donald Trump” and featured production from Just Blaze, 9th Wonder and Chuck Inglish.

His debut album, Blue Slide Park sold 144,000 units in its first week, staking a claim at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200. It marked the first time an independent artistdebuted at No. 1 since Tha Dogg Pound did it in 1995. While some were quick to cast him off as another pot-smking white kid who makes silly songs, something tells me he’s smarter than the average stoner.

Quickly courted by major labels, Miller chose to stick to the independent route. ”I never really got far enough to see an offer for real,” Mac said in November. “I got no hatred towards major labels or anything. I never got a chance to hear what they had to say. We just really wanted to stick with our home team and keep it in the family.”

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UTG: 50 Cent Drops ‘The Big Ten’ Mixtape

After weeks of teasers (and a flood of leaks), 50 Cent has finally blessed the internet with his latest mixtape, The Big Ten.

Actually featuring twelve tracks (because “bonus” tracks are necessary on an already free release),The Big Ten tops off a year 50 has spent reconquering the hip hop game. Each track we’ve heard so far slays, so click here and claim your copy!

We would be lying if we said 50 Cent has always been one of our favorite talents. His debut was stunning and Massacre was solid, but there was also a lot of “hit or miss” tracks for awhile as well. This tape finds him solidifying the idea he’s officially “back” and we couldn’t be more excited to see what he does next.

View original article on Under The Gun Review.

The Age Of The Internet Rapper

It’s no secret that the Internet is a crucial tool to any artist in the twenty-first century. Not only does the web give artists an easy way to let the public hear their music, but it also gives them a direct line of communication with platforms like Twitter and Facebook. And in no musical community is the Internet more important than in hip hop. The emergence of mixtape culture has prompted rappers to release countless tracks for free online to build buzz and make a name for themselves. The ease in which artists can release tracks, and the speed at which these tracks can go viral, gives the web the ability to create superstars overnight.

ASAP Rocky

For example, take one of the newest Internet rap phenomenons, ASAP Rocky. After releasing just a handful of songs at the end of the summer, he signed a $3 million deal with Sony/RCA. That’s a lot of money for an unproven rapper who’s new to the scene. Although he did release the solid free mixtape LiveLoveA$AP right after signing the deal, there’s no way to tell if he will be able to deliver on the hype when he releases his major label debut. Did Sony/RCA jump the gun and sign him before he was ready?

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Exclusive Q&A: A Conversation With Theophilus London About Love, Life and Antarctica

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsWhen you look at the hip-hop scene at it stands now, with artists like OFWGKTA and LMFAO on the rise, you can feel the genre shifting a bit both in terms of music and artistic vision. Taking a more wild and eclectic approach to not only music but fashion sense is becoming a running trend. With that in mind, the up-and-coming rapper Theophilus London is riding the wave with his unique blend of influences, that read off like something from an indie rock band, and his eye-catching sense of style. This has led to widespread success with his debut release Timez Are Weird These Days getting significant buzz and landing high-profile performances like at this past year’s Cannes Film Festival. Taking some time out of his busy tour schedule, this budding rap star sat down to chat with us about topics ranging from his Tumblr to listening to actress Milla Jovovich cover Prince.

OS: In the past, you’ve voiced displeasure about mainstream rap. Do you feel it’s something you still try to stay away from?

TL: In a sense of [it] being played out, maybe. But, there’s a lot of mainstream rap.

OS: How would you describe the difference between your approach and a regular hip hop artist?

TL: I work off of references. I idolize producers and try to sit down and work with producers on brand new sound. We talk about favorite artists first and foremost and develop a brand new sound. I really can’t say I’m different from other rappers because I’m not in the studio with them or in their creative process.

OS: You announced on Tumblr today that you got Michael Jackson to DJ some of your shows. How did you find him?

TL: I found him in New Orleans. He was hanging out a window. I asked him if he wanted to tour and he said yes. Really glad he came out to tour with us.

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Soundcheck: GRAMMY Showdown — Nicki vs. Kanye vs. Jay-Z

The 2012 GRAMMY nominations are in and it looks like another big year for hip hop, with the genre’s brightest stars earning the majority of nominations for the music industry’s biggest honor.

Leading the pack with seven nominations is Kanye West. His hit “All Of The Lights” earned nods for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Song of The Year while his joint album with Jay-Z, Watch The Throne, is up against his own My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy for Best Rap Album.  The duo is also nominated for Best Rap Performance for their song, “Otis”.

Bruno Mars and Adele are tied with Foo Fighters with six nominations each.  While it may seem a little dated by now, Mars’ debut missed last year’s cut-off.  His debut album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans is up for Album of The Year while his hit, “Grenade” is vying for Song Of The Year, Record of The Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance.  Lil Wayne isn’t far behind with five nominations including Best Rap Performance for  “Look At Me Now” with Busta Rhymes and Chris Brown. Like West, Weezy will battle himself in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category where he’s nominated for “I’m On One” with Rick Ross, Drake, and DJ Khaled and “Motivation” his duet with Kelly Rowland.

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Soundcheck: Rihanna Is Ready To ‘Talk That Talk’

Talk That Talk hit stores November 21, making it the sixth studio album we’ve seen from Rihanna in six years.  The busy Barbadian beauty has been touring in support of last year’s platinum-selling album, Loud for the past year, and released Talk while on the second European leg of her Loud tour. The album’s single, “We Found Love” has been No. 1 on the charts since it hit the airwaves and shows no sign of slowing down.  The racy video features a strung out RiRi tearing up the town with a Chris Brown look alike.  Thankfully, that’s about the only reference to her ex we see from this project.  The rest is a welcomed departure from her darker days of Rated R.

The only feature on the project comes from Jay-Z on the album’s title track, where he spits a verse boasting about his bedroom skills and flying to Jamaica to get the best ganja.  It’s a little unexpected from the Forbes cover boy, but it’s nice to be reminded that Hov isn’t always a big wig who’s too important to rap about sex and smoking weed. And while the note from the man who discovered her is a nice touch, it’s evident that Rihanna didn’t need any help making this record a winner.

The eleven-song album is heavy on the sex and love and light on the drama.  She’s found her stride with her unique brand of pop/house/R&B and found songwriters who seem to get where she’s coming from.  She can still throw a reggae vibe on a dance track and create something that works anywhere in the country.  Her naughty lyrics are super sexual, but somehow she manages to deliver the devilish goods in a way that comes off as racy, not raunchy. She worked with an all star line up of song writers and producers including The Dream, Alex Da Kid, Stargate, and Dr. Luke among others to create a truly unique and cohesive product.

It’s hard to pick a stand out from the short list of strong tracks.  “Where Have You Been” is a sure crowd pleaser and “Birthday Cake” is likely to become the new word for the female pleasure zone.  Songs like “You Da One” and “ Drunk On Love” remind us that we’re all just out in the world, looking for someone to love. It’s a simple theme that permeates the album, and offers justification for some of the harder hitting tracks.

So far, critics have applauded the album that went head to head against another highly-anticipate Diva drop, Mary J. Blige’s My Life 2. While one would expect some competition, I think Rihanna’s appeal stretches much further than the realms of the urban crowd.  Her fan base is clearly younger, and her delivery is too fun and fresh to be deterred by heart-wrenching ballads on the same subject. People Magazine called Talk That Talk “one of 2011’s best pop-diva statements,” while others call it her strongest project to date.  In one of the most accurate reviews, Billboard calls the album, “a fleshed-out statement that captures Rihanna’s relentless drive and will likely keep her on top. This album’s not a victory lap; it’s a whole new race.”

Given the ease with which she transitioned from Loud to Talk That Talk,  and the fact that there wasn’t one “skip” song on the album, I couldn’t agree more.  Rihanna is on a whole new level without a rival in sight.  The only question now, is where will she go from here?



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